A design agency’s challenge.
Founded in 2011, Spark DSG is a user experience design agency based in Doylestown, PA.
Design agencies operate in a competitive market. In its early days as a company, Spark set out to establish relationships with software developers to help expand its technical offerings and bring its interactive designs to life. But the process of finding skilled, reliable and cost-efficient developers was beset with challenges. Many contractors claimed to be jacks-of-all-trades, but didn’t show mastery over any one skill in particular, communication was inconsistent, and more importantly, they failed to accurately understand or translate Spark’s overall design vision into front end code.
How it all began
As early stage founders in 2011, the founders/CEOs of Spark and software development company Speed & Function (S&F) met while working together on an agency project. Through that engagement, Spark hired S&F to tackle small front end jobs for the design firm on an ad hoc basis. Always in what the Spark founder/CEO calls “execution mode,” the S&F team made an impact with their high quality of work, deep pool of engineering talent and unusually collaborative style.
S&F was also equipped to handle the unique complexities of agency work. Unlike product companies, agencies must answer to a range of stakeholders and end clients, creating multiple layers of feedback from a variety of key decision-makers with differing and sometimes contradictory objectives. S&F had the experience to manage the web of stakeholder expectations, and the professional expertise to communicate directly with end clients.
By 2018, ready to scale, Spark hired a technology director to build out and lead its official technology arm. S&F identified an opportunity to work in even deeper collaboration with the design agency. Having already established a rapport with many of Spark’s end clients, S&F understood their pain points and business needs. That access and insight proved instrumental in presenting Spark’s technology director with ideas for new and improved technical solutions, features, and ways to start utilizing S&F’s back end capabilities.
Where the rubber met the road
When the pandemic hit, Spark’s partnership with S&F was put to the test. Vyaire Medical, a client that makes ventilators, urgently needed a Covid-19 response website built from scratch. Spark and the S&F team banded together to complete six months of work in under eight weeks. With obstacles at every turn, including a key engineer stuck in Thailand and a competing design firm eager for the project, the two companies worked at a brisk pace to successfully design and develop a microsite, featuring a podcast, to provide essential information during the crisis.
The secret sauce to agency partnership longevity
Today, ten years into their partnership, S&F handles roughly 85% of Spark’s total development work. As the design agency continues to grow, its deliberately collaborative partnership with S&F only matures and expands in more mutually beneficial ways:
- Joint pipeline reviews. Spark and S&F review potential work opportunities and how to approach them together; S&F adds technical expertise to the RFP writing process, scoping and budgeting the work, and helping to develop solution architecture.
- Collaborative solution design. Spark’s sales and S&F’s UI/UX teams join forces early in the solution architecture phase, which makes for a more successful, efficient, and cost-effective design planning.
- Sharing of leads. If design work comes S&F’s way, Spark gets priority access to the referral, and vice versa when Spark receives development requests.
- Feedback and open communication. An aspiring deliberately developmental organization, S&F fosters a culture of solid communication and honest feedback. Its partnership with Spark thrives on the kind of candid feedback and constructive criticism that strong teams need in order to continue improving. The personal nature of the relationships between Spark and S&F’s teams enable them to meet one another’s needs and persevere through challenging projects.
Bonding through learning and development. Company’s share their respective expertise with one another through workshops; regular conversations and happy hours with both teams builds camaraderie and rapport which leads to stronger work.
Interested in exploring what Speed & Function can do with your company? Contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org